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DC Bar

By Mark Meinke

Times change.

plus_one1Forty years ago, gay-friendly bars – and their patrons – began pushing the envelope in Washington, D.C. It was the envelope of regulations prohibiting standing with a drink, moving with a drink, dancing with someone of the same sex, and all of those other "reprehensible" things that police and zoning codes outlawed. Paul Kuntzler, campaign manager of Frank Kameny’s 1971 ground-breaking run for Congress, calls them the "transitional bars."

Strictly speaking, there were no bars in D.C. Prohibition ended, but D.C. ruled that only restaurants could serve drinks. And since diners are seated, there was no option to stand and drink and walk about and talk – all those things that normally happen in a bar or tavern. In fact, if you saw someone at another table and wanted to talk, you had to leave your drink behind and find a waiter or a waitress to bring it to you.

In the late 1960's, they pushed envelopes at the 1832 House (1832 Columbia Road, NW), the Pier 9 (1854 Half Street, SW) and JoAnna’s (430 8th Street, SE). Kirby Matson, manager at the 1832 House, argued that diners waiting for a table could stand with a drink, so he put a bar upstairs for the "waiting public." Code required that the waiting public be screened from the public, so he put up six inches of chicken wire. At the Pier 9 (pictured above), the small cocktail tables all had numbers on stands and a phone so that if you saw a cute someone at another table, you could call and talk without leaving your table. JoAnna’s, the "first nice women’s bar," opened in 1968 on 8th Street and put in a dance floor for (horrors!) same-sex dancing. It was an overnight success. Within months, there were three other clubs on 8th Street featuring same-sex dancing. And the police didn’t do a thing.

The first "super dance club" opened across the street from JoAnna’s as the Plus One at 529 8th Street, SE. Kuntzler remembers an evening in the summer of 1968 when police cars raced up 8th Street, blocking both ends of the street around the Plus One. The police got out of their cars, expecting the gays to take to their heels and run. They didn’t. The gay men just stood there looking at the police with a confused look. So the police got back in their cars, drove around the block and roared up the street again hoping that the gays would scatter. They didn’t.

Gay Guys – 1; Police – 0.

Times indeed changed.

Mark Meinke is the chair of the Rainbow History Project, an organization that he help found in November 2000. The group seeks to collect, preserve and promote an active knowledge of the history, arts and culture relevant to sexually-diverse communities in metropolitan Washington, DC.

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Miss Cookie Crawford Defends WeHo

Posted on: June 9th, 2009 by Guest Writer 12 Comments

 

cookie-tpm

By Cookie Crawford

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight raid on homes, severe

Like a drag queen of a certain age (okay, me), West Hollywood can appear quite pretty…as long as you don’t look too closely. We like to tout ourselves as a kindly, cultured village, but in preservation circles, our hell-bent-on-demolition City Council has been called the "Gay Mafia."

In the 1940’s and 50’s, we were a toddlin’ town, with our midnight lacework of gay bars safely ensconced just outside the City of Los Angeles. (Lose the shirt, pardner! No raids from the LAPD here!) Frisky starlets Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and the Black Dahlia were stashed in our balconied apartments, dreaming of better roles…and who they might have to, um, date, to snare them.

In the burgeoning village of West Hollywood, our local flavor was a bit like Greenwich Village; slightly seedy but artistic, and with good bone structure to our buildings. Not as swank as Beverly Hills to the west, perhaps, but not as utilitarian as plain old Hollywood, our neighbor to the east, either.

From behind the foliage that overgrew our bungalow courtyards, we watched property values rise. Years passed. Rent control helped. We designated and protected a handful of pretty buildings.

Suddenly, without warning, a battle cry cleaved our quiet village in twain when height averaging was yanked from the building code in 2001. (Height averaging is when a new building can only be as tall as the average height of the block’s existing structures. Who knew?) The grab for land development was on, and our now-aging starlets were unceremoniously tossed to the curb as their balconied apartments were ripped down to make way for looming condominium structures that bore a unified, "home cheapo" look.

We wept. Our glamour was shrinking!

Senior citizens were actually dying as they were evicted. Our City Council took to the airwaves, vowing that they deplored the Ellis Act that permitted landlords to break up homes just to make a quick (million) buck(s). How we loved our City Council in that moment. But then we saw them put children out on the street without compensation when they were gifted with a plot of rent stabilized housing on Laurel Avenue that they wanted to develop!

... Read More →

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Out & Proud in 'Big City' Roanoke

Posted on: June 5th, 2009 by Guest Writer 3 Comments

 

roanoke_tpm

By Karen Gray

I have lived in – or on the outskirts of – Roanoke, Virginia for most of my life.

When I was young and our house was over 15 minutes away from the nearest grocery store, a trip to Roanoke was known as “going into town.” I always thought of it as the “big city” back then. Today, I appreciate its mix of small town charm and “big city” opportunity.
The Roanoke Star

The Roanoke Star

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke is known as the “Star City of the South” (we are the proud home of the largest man-made lit star in the country, which shines above the city from Mill Mountain). 100,000 people big, we have a beautiful downtown neighborhood full of fabulous restaurants and shops, the Farmers Market and Roanoke Wiener Stand, and an impressive collection of museums.

While there is no longer a specific gay neighborhood (the yuppies moved into Old Southwest in the 1980’s), there is a “Gay Kroger” (a local grocery store), as well as a number of restaurants that are known to be accepting of LGBT clientele. We have a very active Metropolitan Community Church, as well as a Pride organization, Roanoke Pride, Inc., that sponsors events and activities throughout the year for the community. Our annual Pride event, Pride in the Park, continues to get bigger and better. In 2008, it pulled in a record attendance of 3,000.

Metropolitan Community Church

Metropolitan Community Church

We also have two lively bars in town, one of which has been open for over 30 years. The other, however, has a much different story – one that you probably heard about on the national news on September 22, 2000. That day, Ronald Gay walked into Backstreet, ordered a beer, sat for a minute, and then stood up and opened fire. His rampage injured six and killed one.

It has been said – both locally and by the massive media contingent that covered the tragedy – that this event blew Roanoke’s LGBT community clear out of the closet. While I personally don’t believe that it changed the way LGBT people lived their daily lives here, I do believe it made the rest of the city and state more aware that we are, in fact, here. The negativity hurled at our local paper for its coverage of the event was proof of that.

As Roanoke continues to grow, I believe more and more LGBT folks will find it to be an open and accepting place where people of all walks of life can be at home.

Karen Gray serves on the committee that is currently planning Roanoke's 20th anniversary Pride festival. She has lived in or around Roanoke for most of her life.

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Join the National Trust for Historic Preservation as we celebrate Pride + Preservation throughout the month of June. Want to help us show some pride in place? Upload a This Place Matters photo of a building, site or neighborhood that matters to you and your local LGBT community.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

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Being Myself in Boystown

Posted on: June 1st, 2009 by Guest Writer 2 Comments

 

This Place Matters: Boystown

By Geoff Dankert

In 1993, the man I’d been seeing for all of a month had a crazy, impulsive idea.

“I bought us plane tickets to Chicago for the day,” he said, wary of whether I would consider such a gesture too much for such a new relationship.

He should not have worried; I was thrilled. And so one Sunday in December, with barely two nickels to rub together between us, we flew to Chicago. It was a great day of window-shopping and sightseeing, and it culminated with a taxi ride to the corner of Halsted and Roscoe streets on the north side of town.

It’s the place I now know to be Boystown. But back then, for a guy who’d been out for barely a year, it was the future.

Even then, it was a place teeming with gay bars and gay-friendly shops. It’s the first place I ever saw two guys holding hands, and at the time, I couldn’t believe that no one was bothering them. What I didn’t realize at the time was that “the gays” had been in this neighborhood for years.

They have moved to what was once a rough neighborhood just so they could live near where they gathered (and drank) – places like Little Jim’s and Roscoe’s. Eventually, they moved because their friends were there, or because it was near the lake, or because they could get a house and fix it up for cheap. Now, of course, it’s one of the most desirable – and most expensive – neighborhoods in Chicago.

When I made my first visit there, I didn’t know the history. I didn’t know that someday, people in Chicago would refer to the neighborhood as “Boystown” with the same ease and lack of judgment that they describe neighborhoods like Bronzeville, Hyde Park and Printers’ Row. I didn’t know that some day, the mayor of Chicago would dedicate enormous rainbow-striped pylons up and down Halsted Street, or that the city’s Pride parade would draw almost a half-million people. All I knew was that this was a place where gay people could just … be.

As we walked down the street that day, we came across a clothing store called “We’re Everywhere.” Owned by gay people, it sold catchy T-shirts, wristbands and dog tags to the out and the nearly-out. I was so thrilled that such a place existed that I bought what for years was one of my favorite garments: a simple white T-shirt with red letters across the chest:

SE TU MISMO.

Be yourself.

That night, over enchiladas at a Mexican restaurant a couple of blocks away, I felt more like myself – my true self – than I ever had.

Eventually, I wound up living in Chicago, barely a mile from Boystown. That restaurant is still there, and every time I walk or drive by it, I smile and remember that night and how it helped make me feel more comfortable about my life, and what my life could be.

Sadly, the T-shirt and the shop are gone. But the neighborhood and its people are still around, and every day, a few more young people move here and find a place where they can “be themselves.”

And by the way, the man whose impulsiveness and generosity made that trip happen? He’s still around, too.

Michigan native Geoff Dankert has lived in Chicago for ten years, and yet every morning, when he sees the skyline from the “L” train on his way to work, he still can hardly believe it. He and his partner live in a renovated turn-of-the-century home on Chicago’s north side.

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Join the National Trust for Historic Preservation as we celebrate Pride + Preservation throughout the month of June. Want to help us show some pride in place? Upload a This Place Matters photo of a building, site or neighborhood that matters to you and your local LGBT community.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

Teaching Preservation Matters

Posted on: May 29th, 2009 by Guest Writer

 

good_hope_matters

Good Hope Cemetery is important because it tells the stories of the many heroic soldiers from our area who bravely fought for our country. It’s also where my classmates – my friends – and I spent our senior year getting dirty and learning about history in a way that I will always remember.

Two Civil War soldiers by the names of John Alexander Harper and David Jones are buried there. Harper was wounded during his service, and Jones was a recipient of a Congressional Medal of Honor. Both showed bravery as they served our nation. Without Good Hope, their stories would be lost.

This place definitely matters.

I hope we’ve proved that this semester.

- Alyssa D.

Alyssa D. is (for a few more days, at least) a senior at Washington High School in Washington Court House, Ohio. This semester, she and her Research History classmates have worked on a variety of preservation projects, including documenting and preserving local cemeteries like Good Hope. See their full blog to relive this exciting project.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.